The Language of the Fan
In the Civil War Era, young men and women were not supposed to openly flirt with each other in public. It
was considered vulgar and rude, as well as innappropriate. So, to overcome this social barrier, young women developed a coded
language to communicate with young men across the massive dance floors at balls. This was the language of the fan. Every woman
carried one, not only to accent her dress and cool herself in the hot ballroom, but to communicate without speaking. Of course,
everyone else also knew the language of the fan and could tell what a lady was saying to a gentlemen by her fan movements.
THE FAN PLACED NEAR THE HEART: "You have won my love."
A CLOSED FAN TOUCHING THE RIGHT EYE: "When may I be allowed to see you?"
THE NUMBER OF STICKS SHOWN ANSWERED THE QUESTION: "At what hour?"
THREATENING MOVEMENTS WITH A FAN CLOSED: "Do not be so imprudent"
HALF-OPENED FAN PRESSED TO THE LIPS: "You may kiss me."
HANDS CLASPED TOGETHER HOLDING AN OPEN FAN: "Forgive me."
COVERING THE LEFT EAR WITH AN OPEN FAN: "Do not betray our secret."
HIDING THE EYES BEHIND AN OPEN FAN: "I love you."
SHUTTING A FULLY OPENED FAN SLOWLY: "I promise to marry you."
DRAWING THE FAN ACCROSS THE EYES: "I am sorry."
TOUCHING THE FINGER TO THE TIP OF THE FAN: "I wish to speak with you."
LETTING THE FAN REST ON THE RIGHT CHEEK: "Yes."
LETTING THE FAN REST ON THE LEFT CHEEK: "No."
OPENING AND CLOSING THE FAN SEVERAL TIMES: "You are cruel"
DROPPING THE FAN: "We will be friends."
FANNING SLOWLY: "I am married."
FANNING QUICKLY: "I am engaged."
PUTTING THE FAN HANDLE TO THE LIPS: "Kiss me."
OPENING A FAN WIDE: "Wait for me."
PLACING THE FAN BEHIND THE HEAD: "Do not forget me"
PLACING THE FAN BEHIND THE HEAD WITH FINGER EXTENDED: "Goodbye."
FAN IN RIGHT HAND IN FRONT OF FACE: "Follow me."
FAN IN LEFT HAND IN FRONT OF FACE: "I am desirous of your acquaintance."
FAN HELD OVER LEFT EAR: "I wish to get rid of you."
DRAWING THE FAN ACCROSS THE FOREHEAD: "You have changed."
TWIRLING THE FAN IN THE LEFT HAND: "We are being watched."
TWIRLING THE FAN IN THE RIGHT HAND: "I love another."
CARRYING THE OPEN FAN IN THE RIGHT HAND: "You are too willing."
CARRYING THE OPEN FAN IN THE LEFT HAND: "Come and talk to me."
DRAWING THE FAN THROUGH THE HAND: "I hate you!"
DRAWING THE FAN ADROSS THE CHEEK: "I love you!"
PRESENTING THE FAN SHUT: "Do you love me?"